Q: We moved to New York City this summer so we are not familiar with holiday tipping protocol. Can you make suggestions for tipping ranges for a midsize co-op with a building staff of 13? I know tips are also based on personal experiences with the staff, so we want to get a general idea of what is expected.
A: New Yorkers take holiday tipping very seriously. Some buildings give residents lists of employees, and even include suggestions for how much to give. Others offer a pool where residents can give a lump sum that is divvied up among the staff. But many buildings leave the decision to the tenants. So, as a newcomer to this tradition, how do you decide how much to give?
The answer varies based on factors unique to you and your building. Staff in co-ops and condos tend to expect more generous tips than those in rentals. Expect to give more at a full-service building than one without a doorman. Ask neighbors on your floor for advice. “You could say, ‘I know, this is kind of a personal topic because it deals with money, but do you have recommendations?’” said Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition.” “You’re not asking them what they paid or what they gave as tips, you’re saying: ‘Do you have recommendations for a tipping range for this building and for the staff in it?’”
A tipping calculator could help. The Agency’s Tip-o-Meter calculates a tipping range based on factors including the size of your apartment, how long you’ve lived in it and how generous of a tipper you are.
But tweak the guidelines for your own situation. If you order DoorDash and Amazon four days a week and need help unloading luggage after every holiday weekend, your doorman will expect a thicker envelope. However, if you’re never home and are not even sure the staff knows you live there, you do not need to tip as lavishly.
Consider the big picture, too. We are living in a time of inflation, so whatever tip you give this year won’t go as far as it would have last year. If you are in a position to give a larger sum than you might otherwise, this is a year to do so.
But if you are facing financial hardship, as many households are, it is OK to scale back. Make a budget and divide the total among the staff. Include a holiday card with a note to express your appreciation.
Whatever you do, give something. And that includes building staff you do not like. You may have your favorite doorman or a special rapport with the super, but do not neglect the overnight doorman you’ve never seen, or a staff member who has frustrated you over the year. They are all expecting a tip.
“It is a big insult to tip nothing,” said Jennifer White Karp, the managing editor of Brick Underground, which has a holiday tipping guide. “You do not want to alienate the people who work in your building.”
For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here.